Teachers would undoubtedly be happier if they were paid more, worked fewer hours and did not have to process several tons of paperwork each year.
But as Keith Milchem indicated in last week's TES Friday, teachers' level of job satisfaction may also be largely determined by their age or years of service. Research in both Britain and other countries suggests that this is the case.
A 1995 questionnaire survey by R P Chaplain involving 267 primary teachers indicated that the youngest teachers (under 35) and the oldest (over 45) enjoyed the job more than the intermediate age group.
Seven years earlier, T E Avi-Itzhah's study of 93 female1 kindergarten teachers in Israel also found that age and teaching experience were related to job satisfaction. "It is only later on in their careers (if they stay on) that they derive satisfaction (or may convince themselves that they do)," she concluded.
After rereading these papers two questions occurred to me: * When primary teachers say that they enjoy their jobs do they really, or is it because they are so new to it, or have spent so long at it, that they feel they have to say their enjoy their work?
* Why is it that some primary teachers enjoy their jobs but others do not?
The second question is especially important, because an answer to it may provide deeper insight into the nature of the profession and how more teachers could gain satisfaction from their careers.
Is it perhaps something to do with their personalities? Or is it more about their attitudes to life? Is it about where they work,or more about the people they work with? Is it associated with status and power? Or is the answer considerably more complex?
If you have any thoughts on the subject please write to me at the School of Education and Professional Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, or via email (email@example.com) stating your age, sex and teaching experience. It would also be interesting to know what type of school you work in and the size of your classes.
Dr Cockburn is the author of Teaching under pressure: looking at primary teachers' stress, Falmer (1996).
Education researchers who wish to disseminate their findings through the columnsof The TES should send summaries of their research (750 words max) to David Budge, research editor, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY.
Tel: 0171 782 3276.